Israeli policemen at the scene of a shooting incident in Tel Aviv, January 1, 2016.
Israeli policemen at the scene of a shooting incident in Tel Aviv, January 1, 2016.

Israeli police on Saturday identified a suspect in a shooting outside a Tel Aviv bar that killed two people and wounded at least seven others.

Relatives of Nashat Milhem, an Israeli Arab from the village of Arara in northern Israel, reportedly recognized him from security footage recorded at the scene of Friday's attack and notified authorities.

According to the Associated Press, family members said Milhem was "traumatized" after police killed his cousin in 2006, and that he served time in prison after allegedly grabbing a police officer's gun.

Milhem's father said he was sorry for his son's actions and wished the victims a speedy recovery.

"I am a law-abiding Israeli citizen. I heard that my son did what he did, but that is not how I raised him; I am sorry," he said in a statement to the press.

Milhem's family also called on him to turn himself in as Israeli police continued a large-scale manhunt.

The New Year's Day shooting came amid a wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis, and days after the leader of the Islamic State group threatened Israel with violence.

Prior to the shooting, security camera images showed a bespectacled young man calmly walking through a food market adjacent to the bar. He walked toward the entrance, placed his backpack on a cart, pulled out a pistol, and then stepped out into the street and began firing.

Increasingly frequent attacks by Palestinians have killed 21 Israelis in recent months, in stabbings, shootings or vehicular assaults. More than 130 Palestinians have died during the same period, most of them shot by Israeli security patrols. Authorities contend most of the Palestinians killed were either attacking or attempting to attack Israeli civilians.

Israeli leaders blame Islamist groups that call for the destruction of Israel for inciting much of the violence. Palestinians say such violent outbursts reflect frustration over Israel's continuing occupation of land that they see as a future Palestinian state.

Palestinians carry the body of Saad al-Atrash to a
Palestinians carry the body of Saad al-Atrash to a hospital in the West Bank city of Hebron, Jan.1, 2016. The Israeli military transferred 23 bodies of Palestinians it says were involved in violence to their families in the West Bank.

Bodies returned

Friday's attack happened as the bodies of 23 Palestinians killed during several recent attacks on Israelis were being returned to West Bank neighborhoods in an apparent bid to ease tensions.

An Israeli army spokesperson and Palestinian medical sources confirmed Friday that the operation had been completed.

Israel does not always immediately return the bodies of slain attackers.

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